Last week, South African President Jacob Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet and made some significant changes to the country’s executive. Most notable is the removal of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, whose relationship with his appointing authority has been less than cordial since his reappointment to the post in December 2015. For most part of last year, the two had a public standoff with the minister at times coming short of calling the President a ‘criminal’. As a result Gordhan became the face of the anti-state capture movement whose mission was to rid South Africa of President Zuma’s associates, the Gupta brothers. The said movement is also credited for being behind the decision by all of the country’s major banks to sever ties with the Guptas and their businesses.
After a lengthy impasse, the President decided to use the bazooka in his pocket and fired Gordhan. Instantly the rating agencies used Zuma’s move as a reason to downgrade the country to ‘junk status’.
Ironically this was done despite the country’s currency remaining quite stable. It is our position that such a downgrade and the markets’ interference in the running of the country and the executive’s decision-making only serves the interest of those considered by Zuma to be “white monopoly capital”. We believe the markets or businesses are only looking after their interests and not the interests of the ordinary South Africans or SADC residents. The contradiction here is that Zuma and his government have the responsibility to also make decisions in the interest of those who are not looked after by the markets. The majority South Africans are still in need of portable drinking water, sanitation, a living wage, economic empowerment and access to universal healthcare 23 years after the ANC made such promises. Last year, Africa’s largest retailer, Shoprite, caused protests not only in South Africa but in neighbouring countries as well after news broke out that the company’s then CEO earned R100 million a year.
Those are the people the markets seem to be protecting. During his reshuffle, Zuma said he took a group of young cadres who are supposed to take South African to the next level, which is economic prosperity.
In weeks prior to the reshuffle the President made it clear that South Africans could no longer wait for the promised prosperity and that it must be delivered. He insisted, for example, that the constitution be changed to allow for expropriation of land without compensation. His allies with in the ANC Youth League said that if the markets continued to control the country, they would be forced to take charge of the country’s mineral resources and use such to feed the people.
This is clearly a sign that South Africans have been deprived of their own resources which have for centuries been in the hands of settlers.
Then we have state capture discussion which is the basis of the calls, even within the ANC national leadership, for Zuma to step down. The President’s friends and his son’s business partners, the Guptas, have been linked to questionable behaviour over the years.
One such incident is the disrespect of the country’s laws when they landed their private plane at Waterkloof military airfield. The Guptas are also accused of influencing the way President Zuma runs his state affairs. Zuma’s continued association with the Guptas is only casting doubt on his intentions of delivering on promises made to the South African people.
It is about time we distinguish between the three concepts and trying to simplify issues by merging them into one discussion.
White monopoly needs to be tackled but so does the need to fulfil the promises made to the South African people in 1994. And if there are unelected individuals running the country’s affairs, that too needs to be dealt with.
After all South Africa will outlive the current crop of leaders but they have a responsibility to ensure that the country’s heirs have something to inherit.